Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Saturdays with Hitchcock.

28107326Wittlinger, Ellen. Saturdays with Hitchcock.
October 10th 2017 by Charlesbridge
ARC from Baker and Taylor

Sixth grader Maisie and her best friend Cyrus like to hang out together, especially to see classic movies at their small town Illinois theater run by the cranky Mr. Schmitz. She's not happy when Gary starts hanging around with them, since she feels she's too young to be interested in boys, and Cyrus acts weird whenever Gary is around. Maisie's beloved Uncle Walt moves in with her family while he is recuperating from an injury he received doing one of his own stunts for a movie. His career isn't going all that well, but he's still determined to make it in Hollywood. He and Maisie bond over movies, and he nicknames her "Hitchcock". Maisie's mother Cindy isn't pleased to have Walt back; even though he doesn't do a lot to help out with their mother, Evelyn, the mother clearly thinks Walt is wonderful. Maisie starts to notice that Evelyn is forgetting a lot of things, and has left her tea kettle boiling on the stove, so Cindy finds a caregiver to stay with Evelyn. When an accident happens despite the caregiver, the decision is made to move Evelyn into Maisie's room. Meanwhile, the tensions grow between Maisie and Cyrus; Cyrus has a secret that he won't tell her because he can't. Eventually, we find out that Cyrus like likes Gary, and Maisie starts to think that she like likes Gary, but doesn't feel right since Cyrus is interested in him. Mr. Schmitz turns out to be an old flame of Evelyn's, and he steps in to help care for her. Things seem to be going fairly well, but there's a lot of emotional information for Maisie to process.
Strengths: I am enjoying the recent trend in ailing grandparent stories-- it's so much more realistic than having all of the siblings and parents die. Maisie's relationship with her uncle, as well as the family dynamic in general, is strained but very realistic. Maisie's mother loses her job, and that's certainly something that many children have had to deal with. The grandmother's decline is softened by her reconnection with Mr. Schmitz. The stand out plot line, of course, is the like like triangle, and it's handled very brilliantly. Like Mattie in Dee's Star Crossed, Cyrus is attracted to a boy but doesn't feel that this automatically makes him gay, and we see enough of middle school behavior to understand why Cyrus doesn't want to announce his feelings to the world. It's a nice touch that Gary has a cousin who's gay, so he is kind to Cyrus, even though Gary clearly prefers Maisie. Well done, all around.
Weaknesses: If there are middle school students who like 80 year old movies, they do not go to my school. In 20 years of teaching, I've only had two students who have stated classic movies as an interest, and since I was the only 12 year old with a Gene Kelly obsession forty years ago, I've been looking for them. Maybe it's just my community's lack of good classic movie theater.
What I really think: I will buy a copy of this, but I will have to hand sell it to my growing group of students who ask for LGBTQIA books.

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